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Dirty little secrets are my bread and butter. Everyone has them, and exposing what people try to hide is how I make a living.

I've always liked to watch people, study them, and unravel their mysteries. Give me a few minutes and I'll know if they're happy, sad, needy, or insecure.

People are easy for me to read and far too predictable. Money, sex, and power are prime motivating factors, at least for the people I'm hired to expose. Tonight, I'm doing just that.

Busy shoppers move past me as if they're running out of time. With the holiday hours at the Scottsdale Fashion Mall, they're feeding their retail addiction late into the evening.

Thanksgiving hasn't even passed, yet Christmas sales and shopping have begun in full force. I'm not interested in the shoppers or the sales. My focus is on the Tiffany & Co. store across from where I sit. A certain female shopper named Rebecca Tanner stopped in there about twenty minutes ago and still hasn't emerged. I'm tempted to follow her inside and see what the heck she's doing, but keeping a low profile will make my job easier.

The coffee in my cup is now cold and my stomach is rumbling loudly because I missed dinner. Just as I'm growing bored and restless, a tall attractive woman with long auburn hair walks out of the store. She's on the arm of a dark-haired man wearing a gray tailored suit. Both look as though they belong on the cover of a magazine instead of shopping at the mall, but they do make a striking pair. He has movie star quality written all over him. It makes him stand out like a sore thumb.

The redhead smiles and leans into him. Her eyes never leave him, but he appears preoccupied with leading her swiftly through the crowd. Her companion appears detached or aloof. Rebecca is my target tonight, but he's the surprise.

Where did you come from, Mystery Man?

Tossing my coffee in the trash and grabbing my fake shopping bag from Victoria's Secret, I begin to follow them.

Mystery Man's dark hair catches the light and gives him an unearthly glow. With broad shoulders that taper down to a slim waist, even his expensive suit can't hide his long muscled legs. He has an air of confidence in the way he holds himself that causes shoppers to quickly part around him—many stopping to stare or catch a second look. Nobody is moving for me and I'm forced to dodge bodies in order to keep up.

I'm not easily surprised. This evening may have developed an interesting twist, a bump in the road. I love bumps and twists because they make life and especially work, more interesting.

The couple turns down a long hallway that leads to the public restrooms but they continue through metal doors marked, 'EMPLOYEES ONLY.' Without slowing my pace, I ditch the shopping bag and pull my long hair into a quick, messy bun. Before I reach the doors, I've pulled a solid black apron from my bag and slipped it over my head. This apron is the best ten dollars I've ever spent. It gets me into all sorts of places. Add a fake name tag and I'm unstoppable.

Good thing I'm not wearing heels tonight.

Through the doors is another dimly lit, industrial hall with many gray metal doors. There is a stark difference between the lights, color, and holiday music of the festive mall to the colorless, sterile feel of this corridor.

Moving purely on instinct, I head left down the hall and around a corner. There I find a door marked 'EXIT.' Not knowing what's on the other side, I stop to compose myself. Easing the door open, a burst of cool air hits me as I peer into a dark concrete jungle also known as the underground parking garage. I'm parked down here, but I can't say where because I've never been to this area before.

Lighting down here is worse than in the hallway I came from. There is no visual end, only a dark abyss in both directions. There are no bustling shoppers at the moment, and the cars are still. The silence is a creepy reminder that I've left the security of the mall.

RED NIGHT ~ VAMPIRE FILES TRILOGY (Book 1)Where stories live. Discover now